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May 2, 2014 08:07 AM

Mid-Tier Spirits for Every-Day Cocktail Making

We were discussing this on another thread. Here are my every day hooches (hint: buy 1.75L bottles for MUCH better economics) for making an after work cocktail, or bunch of cocktails for a party:

Sauza Hornitos, El Jimador, or Camerena, either silver or reposado for Margaritia.

For Manhattan's I am all over the map, and typically use bourbon instead of rye:

Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Old Overholt

Rums, really depends on the drink.

Coruba, Cruzan, Goslings, Mount Gay, El Dorado, Don Q (which I haven't seen lately). I love Brugal Anejo for a delicate sipper, but is has gotten a tad pricey lately until I caught it in a 1.75L bottle at a great price: $23 or so.

Gin: Tanqueray, Seagram's is surprisingly good, as is Gordon's.

Vodka (I don't drink much vodka, but Sobieski is great vodka at a silly cheap price.

Sazerac is tricky: lately I've been using 50% Rittenhouse and 50% either Old Overholt or Wild Turkey Rye. Not particularly happy with this though. Gotta find some of the higher proof Wild Turkey.

I am sure I will think of more...

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  1. Striper, if you know anyone who lives in PA, you can get the WT101 Rye on special order shipped to any of their state liquor stores:
    To order call 1-800-332-7522 Option 1

    Product #540576

    1 Reply
    1. Rye: our standby spirit at home, mainly used in Manhattans and their variants, Fort Points, etc. Saz 6 (when we can find it), Redemption, Rittenhouse, Riverboat. Just got some James E. Pepper 1776, but haven't tried it yet.

      Bourbon: Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller, Four Roses Yellow Label, Evan Williams. Was surprised how good the $13/750ml Old Fitzgerald is.

      Gin: Plymouth (a shame it has been pushed into the premium pricing band), Tanqueray, Gordon's, Brokers.

      Irish: Powers, GrandTen South Boston Irish.

      Other American whiskeys: Bully Boy American.

      Tequila: mainly use silver in Margaritas and other tequila cocktails. Lunazul, Espolon, El Jimador, Zapopan, Olmeca Altos.

      Rum: I like traditional Tiki, so have tons of rums and rhums around, but for an inexpensive white rum, like for grandma's Cuba Libres, I use Don Q, Cruzan, or Flor de CaƱa.

      Vodka: Smirnoff. I don't drink a lot of vodka, but I cannot see the point of going higher than this. I consider the whole super-premium category a transparent swindle. Karlsson's Gold I keep around to drink neat.

      Sweet vermouth: the missus loves Antica Formula and I'm a big fan of Punt e Mes and Vya, but our budget brand is Dolin Rouge.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Think I mentioned I scored some Carpano "Classico" (not sold in the USA) vermouth when I was in Italy over Christmas. Not as bold as Antica, and by far my favorite vermouth. Now on the permanent list for the in-laws to keep me supplied. Dolin Rouge is fine as well in my book.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          will try and get a full list up soon but:

          1. striperguy, thanks for starting this thread.

          2. on vermouth, I love that the 750 ml of dolin are all ~15, especially the blanc, which is just lovely. also comparatively priced (when you account for size), carpano has recently brought to the US their carpano bianco- i saw it in NY for $23 for a litre. I haven't done a side by side with dolin, so i can't say which i prefer, but look forward to doing so sometime soon.

          punt e mes always feels like a steal. and, i've wanted to try the classico. i like antica, but now that i've played aroudn with it on my own... anytime it's used in a cocktail, unless it's a really restrained amount, it just dominates the drink for me (i feel the same about cynar... and wonder if that's just what happens when you've had a distinctive spirit a lot, or if certain ingredients/profiles are more prone to that development).

          1. re: StriperGuy

            Friends are bringing Classico and Amer Picon back from France. I will be enjoying myself at their house. They said Classico is great. Punt e Mes is my house sweet, unless I think the drink (or drinker) can't take it.

            For dry, I like Dolin and Boisierre. I'd love a dry version of Punt e Mes!


          2. re: MC Slim JB

            My only thing is that I really don't like Smirnoff. I even tried buying one of their super-premium versions long ago, and the aroma still makes me think of rubbing alcohol.

            I'll usually spring for Stoli, but the Tito's is good too. Not that I'm drinking any of it.

          3. Just wanted to thank you for starting this thread.

            Not a "serious" drinker. I mainly keep a bottle of vodka in the freezer for making pie crust!

            Yet...I would like to be able to add a bit of seltzer/tonic and lime to my freezer vodka and have that available to sip. I find this "mid-range" list to be very helpful.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pedalfaster

              What does freezer vodka do for the crust? Is is just that it is so cold that it helps the butter make flakes?

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                It's not that it is in the freezer...just how I store it.

                Vodka is simply a liquid that helps with the malleability of the dough.

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  Vodka doesn't create gluten when added to a pie crust like water would. It's such a negligible amount that it doesn't affect the flavor of the pie dough either.

              2. good thread!
                Tequila: Olmeca Altos blanco and repo, Espolon repo, Azunia blanco
                Bourbon: for me a 1.75L of Bulleit for $30 at Total Wine is tough to pass up. Buffalo Trace is our other go-to.
                Rye: Old Overholt
                Gin: Tanqueray or Plymouth
                Vermouth: Dolin (dry, blanc, rouge)

                2 Replies
                1. re: BillB656

                  That's a crazy good price on the bulleit Bourbon I wish I could get bulleit rye for the same price. And to the other posters above Carpano Antico is just way too dominating a vermouth for my liking in any drink.

                2. I've compiled a table of recommended budget, every-day, and premium brands. I used recommendations from personal experience and various threads form here, eGullet, and elsewhere.

                  I think the "mid-tier" brands are often better than premium for mixing, as their rough edges and unsubtle flavors tend to stand up to mixing.